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Cataract Awareness Month: Frequently Asked Questions (Part 2)

June 16, 2011

The answers to your questions about cataract symptoms and treatments.

At the beginning of this month, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) announced they were officially declaring the month of June Cataract Awareness Month in order to promote awareness about the world’s leading cause of blindness and educate people about symptoms and treatment options.

Cataracts affects more than 22 million Americans aged 40 and older, and it is estimated that by the year 2020, more than 30.1 million Americans will develop cataracts.

In light of Cataract Awareness Month, we announced earlier this week that we would be gathering the most frequently asked cataract questions and answering them in a weeklong two-part blog series. This past Tuesday, we answered several questions about cataracts, it’s affect on vision and the risk factors associated with it.

Today, we will be touching on the common symptoms of cataracts, the different treatment options that are available to patients, and everything you need to know about cataract surgery.

What are the common symptoms of cataracts?

When cataracts first begin to form, usually between the ages of 40 and 60, they don’t usually have an impact on vision. However, as cataracts begin to grow, they can interfere with the passage of light through the eye’s lens and significantly affect a person’s sight.

While cataracts typically do not cause pain or redness, there are several irritating symptoms that are associated with the eye disease:

  • Blurred, cloudy or double vision
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • The sense of “film” over your eyes
  • The sense that colors appear faded
  • An increased sensitivity to strong light and glare

How do you treat cataracts?

The key to treating cataracts before they have already formed is through regular eye exams. Whether or not you have good vision, if you are 65-years-old or older, you should get a complete eye exam every one or two years.

If you already have cataracts, there are several things that you can do next. First, focus on treating blurry vision symptoms. This can be done by simply fitting you for glasses or contact lenses. It is common for people with cataracts to frequently change glasses as their cataract continues to grow.

However, because cataracts degrade your eyesight over time, surgery is recommended once a person is unhappy with their vision and it can no longer be improved with a change in prescription.

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a quick and simple procedure in which the surgeon places a small incision at the edge of the cornea, removes the clouded lens of the eye, then replaces it with a new intraocular lens (IOL). This is done by inserting a small, ultrasonic probe to break up the clouded lens into a tiny parts which are then suctioned out of the eye. Next, the IOL is inserted to replace the cataract and is perfectly aligned by the surgeon, resulting in the return of vision.

With a standard lens implant, glasses or contacts may still be needed following surgery. However, with new, premium IOL implants, only reading glasses, or sometimes no glasses at all, may be needed after cataract surgery. These premium lenses also help to simultaneously correct vision at near, intermediate and distant ranges.

What if I can’t afford cataract surgery?

Most health insurance and Medicare plans will cover cataract surgery. However, they usually will only cover the cost of ordinary intraocular lenses, not premium IOL implants.

For those without insurance or Medicare, on Friday, October 28, River Drive Surgery Center in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, will be holding the annual Vision Harvest Free Cataract Surgery Day. Cataract surgery will be provided completely free of charge to those patients with cataracts who do not have insurance and cannot afford the surgery.

In the first two years of Vision Harvest, we were able to provide free cataract surgery for over 50 patients who would have not been able to afford it otherwise. If you are interested in Vision Harvest, call our hotline at (973)200-8250.

Whether or not you have cataracts, we encourage everyone, especially older adults, to contact an eye care professional and schedule regular eye exams in order to preserve their vision.

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